Willie Wessels has been in powerlifting and strongman for a very long time… and he has some wild stories to tell
Willie Wessels is a strongman and powerlifter who has been in the sport for a very long time. Particularly, he was there at the ground floor when strongman first started coming to the United States. A lot has changed since then through to today – and Wessels has been deeply involved in the sport to see all of it. In our latest episode of the Legends of Iron Podcast, Willie Wessels shares the weirdest, funniest, and craziest stories from all that he has seen in his many decades of strongman.
The sport of strongman has grown tremendously over the years. While the sport first started making headway as a professional competition in the 1970’s with World’s Strongest Man, it took quite a while for the competition to make its way to the United States. This was in part because Franco Columbu, who competed in the 1977 WSM, injured his left knee while doing the fridge race. He later sued the competition and won. So the event vowed to leave the United States.
Of course, time passed and things changed. Now Strongman has had a rebirth as early as the 1990s and continues to grow in the United States ever since. Willie Wessels was embedded into the sport during the ’90s (and obsessed with watching strongman as early as the ’70s). To this day, he still is deeply involved with organizing and promoting strongman competitions.
Not only that, but Willie Wessels is an accomplished strongman himself. He has won three national championships. His last victory at the nationals was done immediately after a 14 month battle with leukemia. Adding to the wow factor of his incredible accomplishments.
So there’s no question as to why Willie Wessels was invited onto the Legends of Iron podcast this week. With his vast knowledge and first-hand history of the sport, he was able to share some incredible stories and some very memorably crazy ones. Let’s jump into it.
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It’s not uncommon for strongman athletes to soil themselves during lifts
We are all too familiar with how an athlete’s body reacts to pushing through a heavy lift. We’ve seen nosebleeds and we’ve seen projectile vomiting. But what might be less known (and less seen in videos) is how often a strongman athlete is likely to defecate themselves during a heavy lift.
Willie Wessels has seen it happen dozens of times. He jokes that men often lean more towards defecating themselves while women are more likely to urinate in their pants. Combine that with nose bleeds and vomiting – and Wessels is often unsure of how many towels are needed to bring to the athletes after an “accident.”
Old school ways of boosting energy before a lift
While the most shocking, soiled pants are only the beginning of the wild stories Willie Wessels has seen. He also goes into detail about the old school tactics he would see some athletes do to build energy before a lift. We all understand that pre-workout is a common supplement in 2022. But back in the 1990s, Wessels would often see a strongman snort crushed coffee beans right before going out on stage.
Is it unnecessary? Most likely. There were still caffeine tablets and other options available to boost up energy. But the story goes to show just how far the sport has come – and how old school it used to be.
Five strongman, one suit
The sport of strongman requires athletes to wear a lifting suit during competitions (this makes sense with all of the accidental soiled pants that were mentioned earlier). This can be an added expense for strongman athletes who aren’t quite yet earning cash from the sport.
But it was still a surprise when Willie Wessels ran a competition and saw five strongman all deciding to share the same suit. Not only were they all different sizes, but they seem to have failed to consider the obvious. As Nick Best puts it, “I don’t want to be the fifth guy.”
Willie Wessels’ powerlifting and strongman journey is one to behold. He’s accomplished a lot both as an athlete and as an organizer of the sport. He has had incredible stories to share – both inspirational, jaw dropping, and funny.
And more importantly than that – he is a perfect example of what strongman represents. He has dedicated his life to hard work and overcoming obstacles. This not only includes his epic lifts but his battle with cancer. For Wessels, he wants his legacy to be leaving strongman in a better place than where he first came in. By those metrics he has already succeeded.
You can watch Willie Wessels’ full interview with Nick Best and Jon Andersen on the latest episode of Legends Of Iron above. Make sure to check back every other Thursday for new episodes only on Generation Iron or wherever podcasts are downloaded.